Florida's Tim Tebow has won 22 consecutive games as a starting quarterback.
With six more, he can be just like Greg McElroy.
McElroy has quarterbacked Alabama to a 12-0 record entering Saturday's SEC championship against Florida and was 16-0 in 2005 at Southlake Carroll (Texas) High, where he succeeded former Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Crimson Tide junior doesn't have the numbers or the aura of Tebow, but being perfect does have its advantages.
"I guess that's something I take a lot of pride in, but it's not something I'm going to voice or compare," McElroy said. "Tim has had as much success at the college level as you could possibly have. He's been a great quarterback for Florida, and he's obviously as celebrated a player as there is in the country.
"With that being said, I feel strongly about the way we've played, about our preparation, and I feel strongly that if we go out and execute, we're going to be very competitive. It's going to be a good game, and I feel strongly that we will be very well prepared."
McElroy admits he wasn't prepared for the ups and downs that can accompany the first season as an SEC starting quarterback. His debut was a smash, as he overcame a slow start to throw for 230 yards in leading the Tide to a 34-24 win over No. 7 Virginia Tech.
Alabama averaged 256.25 passing yards in opening wins over Virginia Tech, Florida International, North Texas and Arkansas, with McElroy recording seven touchdowns and one interception. He set a school record with 14 consecutive completions against FIU and matched the school's accuracy record (86.7 percent) by going 13-of-15 against North Texas.
Yet in the next four games against Kentucky, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee, Alabama averaged 128.5 yards passing, and McElroy had two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Tide had an open date after surviving the Vols 12-10, and a renewed focus on the air attack resulted in a 276-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 24-15 win Nov. 7 over LSU.
"I think Greg has done a fantastic job of doing the things that he needs to do for us to have a productive offense," coach Nick Saban said. "He probably did a little bit better in the beginning than some people thought and sputtered in the middle a little bit, but I'm not sure that wasn't a byproduct of our entire offensive team. He certainly has done some good things in the last few weeks to restore his confidence."
That assurance was never more evident than last Friday at Auburn. With 8:27 remaining and the Tide trailing 21-20, McElroy engineered a 15-play, 79-yard drive that culminated with a 4-yard touchdown toss to Roy Upchurch with 1:24 left.
McElroy completed his final six passes of the drive, which included three third-down conversions.
"Everybody in the huddle seemed very confident and seemed very willing," he said, "and I think everybody felt strongly that they were going to do exactly what we did and take it right down and score. I think that was definitely a positive for us on offense and obviously going into a great defensive matchup."
Alabama enters the SEC title game averaging 194.5 passing yards a game, up from last year's 171.1-yard average. The biggest difference is that McElroy has thrown for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions after John Parker Wilson last year accounted for 10 scores and eight pickoffs.
Sophomore receiver Julio Jones and senior tight end Colin Peek have been the top targets for McElroy, who's eager to challenge a team that has made 20 interceptions, allowed just six touchdowns and is No. 1 in pass defense (143.17 yards a game).
"Right now, they're the defending SEC champs," McElroy said. "We're the defending runner-up. Who wouldn't be excited? This is why you sign up at Alabama. You don't come here to win the Davey O'Brien Award. You don't come here to play in front of a big crowd. You come here to win championships. You come here to win games.
"That's why they recruited me and that's why I'm here, because that's the tradition that's established here, and that's what I want to be a part of."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...